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Dentistry/Delay root canal on infected tooth


What reasons, apart from scheduling conflicts, where delaying root canal on a severely infected tooth
would be the prescribed course of action?

My mother has been in severe pain for the past few days from what appeared to be an infected molar. The Endodontist confirmed this and scheduled her for a root canal nearly 2 weeks from now. They sent here away in pain with an antibiotics prescription claiming that the infection must heal significantly before the procedure. Is this common practice? I had always assumed root canal could be performed and should be performed on even the most severe cases of root-infected teeth.   



Hi Ed,

I'm sorry to hear your mother is going through all this especially with the holidays upon us. Usually, if it is only a matter of opening into a tooth that has abscessed, most endodontist will do that on an emergency visit and then schedule the completion appointment at a time when they have more time. If that was not done to your mother, something else is compromising treatment that can be done quickly to relieve pain. One possibility is that it a retreatment of an old root canal. There is nothing that can be done in an emergency appointment to fix that as a retreatment can take 1 hour + to do. Another reason might be the type crown/filling etc. that might be on the tooth that would require extensive treatment to get through or even need to remove the filling. Unfortunately, either one of these will result in a patient needing a prescription, rather than receiving treatment.

I don't know if these apply to your mother or not and maybe you should ask the endodontist to explain things since he/she didn't do a good job of explaining it to your mother.

Hope this helps.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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